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Re: [hackers-il] The wheel reinvention mystery

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  • Arik Baratz
    ... I d say that some of the time it s used as an excuse, some of the time to create the allusion of security, and the rest of the time it s just because most
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 21 5:21 PM
      On 9/21/06, Nadav Har'El <nyh@...> wrote:

      > In my previous post on the subject I gave a few real-world examples of
      > people's awe and blind acceptance at the face of "security excuses".
      > Your post is unfortunately another example - where you blindly accept
      > from the "security" as a good excuse from the "first volunteer", for why we
      > should accept the system he designed, even if it doesn't do what we need
      > it to do.

      I'd say that some of the time it's used as an excuse, some of the time
      to create the allusion of security, and the rest of the time it's just
      because most people don't really understand security.

      An example for the first is airliners requiring an ID to board a
      plane. The airliners want to prevent the ticket resale market so they
      jumped on the Sept. 11th bandwagon and enforce security checks.

      An example for the second is the TSA, which checks are so useless a
      researcher managed to get all the components of a bomb aboard an
      airplane and assemble it in 15 minutes in the toilets. Twice. They
      just search for the wrong things. A few days after Sept. 11th I flew
      back from the US to Israel. The guy was going through my luggage and I
      asked him, what are you looking for? He told me that they just told
      him to browse through people's bag, and he got zero instructions on
      what to look for. It does look very elaborate, though.

      And an example of the 3rd is the check in to buildings where you have
      to sign your name. Absolutely no incentive for me to sign my real
      name. Sometime they check your ID and then allow you to sign in...
      yourself... and they don't verify that the name you signed in with is
      the actual name on your ID.

      Yet in the right context you can claim that X is more secure than Y.
      There are many assumptions involved, and all in all, there are things
      that, all else being equal, are more secure.

      -- Arik
    • Omer Zak
      Apparently passions about the story are still hot around the nonprofit in question. Anyway, I duly notice the diversion (change of topic) in the discussion -
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 21 9:51 PM
        Apparently passions about the story are still hot around the nonprofit
        in question. Anyway, I duly notice the diversion (change of topic) in
        the discussion - from discussion of wheel reinvention vs. NIH to
        management of security.

        I am cross-posting this also to discussions@..., because the
        altered topic is more appropriate to Hamakor discussions than to the
        general philosophical atmosphere of Hackers-IL.

        On Fri, 2006-09-22 at 02:06 +0300, Nadav Har'El wrote:
        > On Thu, Sep 21, 2006, Omer Zak wrote about "[hackers-il] The wheel reinvention mystery":
        > > A recent argument in Hamakor prompted me to consider the general
        > > question why would people sometimes prefer not to reinvent the wheel,
        > > and why would they be enthusiastic about reinventing the wheel.
        > >
        > > http://tddpirate.livejournal.com/63135.html
        >
        > I posted my opinion on your post in your blog (under the heading "you're
        > a bit confused" :-) ).
        >
        > Unlike you, the same Hamakor thread prompted me to ponder on a different
        > topic - one that I raised on this list a few months ago. This is the question
        > of how come every time that somebody uses "security" as a reason for some
        > action (or inaction), people immediately take this as an acceptable
        > explanation, even if it completely unfounded.

        While I agree that the "S" word is frequently abused. We have been
        experiencing it a lot in Israel, where political censorship, corruption
        and environmental damage (TAASH in Hod Hasharon area, for example) were
        hidden behind the veil of "Security".

        However, in this specific case, I believe that nonstandard configuration
        by knowledgeable people does promote security. The problem seems to be
        the failure to take the complementary step of documenting the changes in
        the system and ensuring that it is easy for someone else to pick up the
        reins. (Think of what would happen if the first sysadmin were hit by a
        bus.)

        > Also, people also tend about security as a binary thing, either there is
        > "security" or there is "no security", and obviously "security" is better
        > than "no security". In reality security is a broad spectrum, and there is
        > *always* a tradeoff betwen more security at the cost of more money / less
        > functionality / less convenience.

        Yes. Please tell us what is your threat model and how (in your opinion)
        should Hamakor deal with each threat.
        A quick and dirty threat model is as follows:

        1. Membership information - should be guarded (even if a single person's
        ID can be easily obtained by other means, we do not want to release the
        IDs of 100 people, about 50% of them are successful).
        2. Financial accounting - can be viewed, must not be tampered with.
        3. Web site - not to be defaced.
        4. Wiki - occassional defacing is acceptable (everyone knows that wikis
        are not as protected) but must be easy to detect and recover from
        defacing.
        5. Mailing lists - must not be a vector for spam.
        6. Worms and trojan horses - must at least be easy to detect and
        disinfect.
        --- The Captions Troll
        --
        In civilized societies, captions are as important in movies as
        soundtracks, professional photography and expert editing.
        My own blog is at http://tddpirate.livejournal.com/

        My opinions, as expressed in this E-mail message, are mine alone.
        They do not represent the official policy of any organization with which
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        WARNING TO SPAMMERS: at http://www.zak.co.il/spamwarning.html
      • Nadav Har'El
        ... Are you looking for abuse? Posting on a heated subject, and in English, on the Hamakor list? I m not joining your game, and returning this to hackers-il.
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 22 12:09 AM
          On Fri, Sep 22, 2006, Omer Zak wrote about "Philosophical discussion of security (was: Re: [hackers-il] The wheel reinvention mystery)":
          > I am cross-posting this also to discussions@..., because the
          > altered topic is more appropriate to Hamakor discussions than to the
          > general philosophical atmosphere of Hackers-IL.

          Are you looking for abuse? Posting on a heated subject, and in English, on
          the Hamakor list? I'm not joining your game, and returning this to hackers-il.

          > > Also, people also tend about security as a binary thing, either there is
          > > "security" or there is "no security", and obviously "security" is better
          > > than "no security". In reality security is a broad spectrum, and there is
          > > *always* a tradeoff betwen more security at the cost of more money / less
          > > functionality / less convenience.
          >
          > Yes. Please tell us what is your threat model and how (in your opinion)
          > should Hamakor deal with each threat.

          You (and the "first sysadmin" in question) is acting like Hamakor's site
          is some sort of unique site that needs unique protection. In fact, it and
          your "threat list" is hardly unique. The threats you list are the same for
          *every* web site: almost every web site wants not to be defaced, contains a
          bit of personal data, does not want to be taken over by spammers, and so on.
          So every "linux distribution", which already cater to web site builders,
          already take these threats seriously. They already have timely and automatic
          security updates, firewall, secure defaults, system-call firewall (i.e,
          "selinux"), rootkit and change detection, stack-smashing-protection and many
          other things.

          Indeed, you may argue that these measures protect against the "typical"
          threats, and may not protect against extremely dedicated and clever attackers
          with zero-day attacks up their sleeve. So what - are you expecting any of
          those to target Hamakor's site? If these attacks come on Hamakor ever, say,
          10 years, what kind of functionality/cost/convenience cost are you agreeing
          to incur in order to reduce their frequency to once every 20 years? (yes,
          this is what the security/functionality tradeoff looks like).

          Anyway, it appears you completely missed my most important point: perhaps
          *some* of this sysadmin's actions are (somehow) justified by security.
          But he hung *every* one of his actions on security, and you believe him
          implicitly just because of the word "security".
          For example, he refused to install Perl on the machine, stating that one
          interpreter (PHP) is enough, and having another one will open more holes.
          Really - do you seriously believe that? Perhaps one specific worm that depends
          on Perl will fail on a machine without Perl, but do you seriously believe
          that this will hinder a serious attacker for more than 5 minutes? How hard
          is it for an attacker to install Perl himself, if he wants Perl *that* much?

          And this "Perl" thing is just an example. It just goes to show you how easy
          it is for people (like you) do defend bizarre actions just because they were
          done in the name of "security" or have a weak smell of "security" in them.

          > A quick and dirty threat model is as follows:
          >
          > 1. Membership information - should be guarded (even if a single person's
          > ID can be easily obtained by other means, we do not want to release the
          > IDs of 100 people, about 50% of them are successful).

          Most web sites in fact contain MUCH MORE sensitive data than Hamakor's
          membership list (which only lists 200 people and does not contain any
          financial information, credit card numbers, or anything even a bit interesting
          to crackers). The fact you're getting overworked by a "list of ids" is very
          strange, considering how you can find these ids everywhere: go to any
          university and see id lists hanging on the wall or used as computer user ids,
          for example. Lists (originally created for use in elections) of millions of
          Israeli citizens, their personal details and ids, are floating around with
          every criminal being able to get them.. Office buildings (like the one I
          mentioned) already take the physical id cards of thousands of "successful"
          (as you call them) people who come to the building, and can do with them
          much more than just copying the id numbers.

          > 2. Financial accounting - can be viewed, must not be tampered with.

          These have no business being on the Internet site, and never were on the site.

          --
          Nadav Har'El | Friday, Sep 22 2006, 29 Elul 5766
          nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
          Phone +972-523-790466, ICQ 13349191 |Seen on the back of a dump truck:
          http://nadav.harel.org.il |<---PASSING SIDE . . . . . SUICIDE--->
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